22COMMENT          Crime and punishment          The Radisson Sonya Hotel, St. Petersburg has taken the city’s favourite l...
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Crime and punishment


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Viability's Guy Wilkinson writes a monthly column for Hotelier Middle East Magazine. This article originally appeared in March 2011.
For more information about Viability, please visit http://www.linkedin.com/company/2347942 or http://www.viability.ae/

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Crime and punishment

  1. 1. 22COMMENT Crime and punishment The Radisson Sonya Hotel, St. Petersburg has taken the city’s favourite literary son Dostoyevsky and transformed the design of the property with his renowned novel in mind nikoff’s metamorphosis from a mur- derer into a good man was largely thanks to the sweet solicitations of his great love Sonya, who despite her enforced profession, typifies many of the qualities of the Virgin Mary. Dostoyevsky was fascinated with Rafael’s painting called the Sistine Virgin, which he went to see five times at a museum in Dresden. In the Metamorfos outlet, you will see images of the Virgin, morphing first into Dostoyevsky and then COLUMNIST changing into Rafael. Each of the guest room doors fea- unique ‘storytelling’ ap- tures a plaque with a quotation from A The reception desk, which appears to float on air, is supported by a group of inverted black Matrioshka dolls. proach to interior design the novel. The carpets in the room has not only played a major corridors are patterned with further role in making the Radis- text from the book, while the walls son Sonya Hotel one of the most WE REALISED THAT THIS GREAT NOVEL feature photos from specific land- popular in St. Petersburg, but has REPRESENTED A GLOBAL BRAND marks in St. Petersburg named in also seen it become a focal point for THAT COULD BE LEVERAGED TO the novel, that Raskolnikoff passed appreciation of the city’s favourite STUNNING EFFECT IN THE DESIGN AND by during his famous feverish walk literary son, the novelist Fyodor when he decides to murder the old Dostoyevsky and his masterpiece, POSITIONING OF THE HOTEL lady pawn broker, and initiates his Crime and Punishment — one of spiral into delirium. the world’s greatest stories. Not your typical bland hotel inte- Swedish interior designers Stylt rior by any means; imagine which Trampoli were hired by Norwegian which some Russians feel is also lowed hard and agreed to take their Middle Eastern stories could be property developer Linstow AS to reflective of their national character. advice, together with all the com- portrayed in this way! So success- help make their newly acquired 176- “We realised that this great novel mercial risk implied. But they need ful has this approach been that it room hotel in St. Petersburg stand represented a global brand that not have worried, as the hotel’s sub- has received an important endorse- out in a market ironically filled with could be leveraged to stunning sequent success has proven. ment from Dostoyevsky’s own Hilton and Sheraton ‘lookalikes’ effect in the design and positioning Entering the lobby, you feel you great grandson, Dimitri, who is and ‘wannabees’. of the hotel.” But how would they are entering Dostoyevsky’s own stu- now a regular visitor to the hotel. A Their first step was to visit St. pitch to their, self-confessedly con- dio. Book shelves boast no less than tram driver by trade but an interior Petersburg to see what made the city servative, client the proposal that 80 copies of Crime and Punishment designer by training, this warm and tick. “We were looking for a tourist their hotel should be themed on the in different editions and languages, bearded figure is often seen chatting guide book to the city and a friendly story of Rodion Raskolnikoff, who mixed with piles of manuscript with guests about his illustrious fore- chef told us that the best one was begins by murdering two women paper, as though the great author bear, as well as his own fascinating Crime and Punishment!” says Stylt — one of them an old lady — and is himself were about to emerge from life history. When Nissen-Johansen principal, Nissen Johansen. finally saved from descending into the bar to resume writing. The asked Dimitri how he would have “As we came to understand, this a moral abyss (but not from prison) reception desk, which appears to designed the hotel, if he had the was a typically Russian comment, by Sophia “Sonya” Semenova, a float on air, is supported by a group chance, he exclaimed that he would as he meant that it was the best good middle class girl who has been of inverted black Matrioshka dolls, have done it “just like this”! HME guide to the psyche of the people of forced into prostitution to save her with a solitary tiny coloured doll St. Petersburg.” family from bankruptcy? To use at the bottom seeming to bear the He explains that Russians are this apparently dark and negative weight of the entire structure (just as very proud of the city, which is the plot as the basis for designing a hotel the saintly Sonya bore the burdens nation’s cultural capital, and also of — let alone to name it after a prosti- of Raskolnikoff’s tortured life). Guy Wilkinson is a director of Viability, a hospi- Crime and Punishment — a shock- tute — seemed to go against all the Down the corridor in the Meta- tality and property consulting firm in Dubai. ing and gripping story of murder, rules of marketing. And yet after morfos Restaurant & Bar, more For more information, e-mail: guy@viability.ae remorse and ultimate redemption, a tense meeting, their client swal- symbolism is at work. Raskol- March 2011 • Hotelier Middle East www.hoteliermiddleeast.com